Evidence ‘appears’ of chemical attack in Syria
DAMASCUS / WASHINGTON
Rebel fighters opposed to the Syrian government clean their weapons. AFP photoBritish broadcaster BBC has revealed that it has been shown evidence apparently corroborating reports of a chemical attack in Syria last month, while Washington has announced that a “small amount” of chemical arms have been used twice in Syria.
A BBC correspondent who visited the northern town of Saraqeb, south-west of Aleppo, was told by eyewitnesses that Syrian regime helicopters had dropped at least two devices containing poisonous gas in April. Doctors at the local hospital told the BBC they had admitted eight people suffering from breathing problems. Some were vomiting and others had constricted pupils, they said. One woman, Maryam Khatib, later died. A doctor who treated Maryam said her symptoms corresponded to organophosphate poisoning and that samples had been sent for testing.
A number of videos passed to the broadcaster appear to support these claims, but the BBC said it was impossible to independently verify them.
‘Small amount’ of chemical arms used twice
Along with rebels, both the U.S. and Britain have spoken of growing evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons. However, the Syrian government has vehemently denied claims it has used chemical agents. The U.S. has warned that such a development would be a “red line” for possible intervention. However, President Barack Obama has said the current intelligence on possible chemical weapon usage did not constitute sufficient proof.
Top U.N. rights investigator Carla del Ponte said earlier this month that rebels may have been using the deadly nerve agent sarin.
U.S. Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman also announced that small amounts of chemical weapons had been used at least twice in Syria, but Washington is seeking more information as it mulls its response.
“The intelligence community has agreed with varying levels of confidence that chemical weapons were used in small amounts in at least two instances in Syria,” Sherman told U.S. lawmakers. “But having high confidence up in the intelligence community, for which I have great admiration, is not in fact all that one needs to take some of the actions that many people have contemplated.”
Sherman did not say which side was believed to have used the weapons in the bloody conflict in Syria.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at his Black Sea residence in Sochi today, amid a new international push for a peace conference to end more than two years of bloodshed in Syria.